After another delayed bus, we finally arrived in Belgium late in the afternoon, looking forward to our three quickfire days in Brussels.
The first thing on our minds was to pinpoint where to try the finest Belgian chocolate, beer, moules et frites, and waffles – the quintessential quartet of Belgian cuisine!
Our foodie tour began with a visit to the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a famous glazed shopping arcade constructed in 1846. In addition to the architectural beauty of the Galeries, the purpose of our visit was to sample the many fine chocolate shops which are based in the arcade. Some of the famous chocolatiers include Neuhaus (the inventor of praline), Mary, Godiva and Pierre Marcolini. Tourist tip: nearly all the stores offer free samples, so take advantage and try as much as you can!
Our first meal in Brussels also ticked another item off our list – moules et frites! We decided to try this famous dish at Chez Leon, a family run restaurant that has been operating since 1893! Safe to say they delivered, with our 1kg of mussels washed down with some iconic Trappist Belgian beer – beer brewed in monasteries by Trappest-Cistercian Monks!
Away from the food scene, and being in the country of Tintin and countless other renowned comics, we chose to visit the Comics Art Museum. This museum is dedicated to the comic strip art form, and took us back to our childhood with exhibitions on Asterix, Tintin, and the Smurfs! In addition to a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions there is a shop with hundreds of comics in all languages!
Following our visit to the museum we thought it would only be logical to continue the theme of the day and check out the city’s iconic street art. During our walk we also paid a visit to the numerous ‘urinating statues’ which are a popular attraction! The most famous of these is the Manneken Pis, a statue of a boy urinating, which even has a beer and chocolate named in its honour. Elsewhere around the city there are also urinating statues of both a girl – Jeanneke Pis and a dog – Zinneke Pis. Talk about an obsession!
Whilst in Brussels we were also lucky enough to catch a performance by the great John Legend (one of Anne’s favourites) at the Forest National concert hall. A true entertainer, he played an incredible 2.5 hour show which was a testament to his ability both on the piano, and vocally!
Our final day in Brussels saw us take the Sandemans New Europe free walking tour, led by the unique and charasmatic Quinten. This tour was a great way to learn a little bit more about the history of many buildings and sites we had come across on our wanderings the previous days. From the incredible Grand Place (the main square in Brussels), we visited the Bourse (which houses the stock exchange) and learned about how the citizens of Brussels had responded in wake of the terrorist attacks in 2016. The tour ended adjacent to the Royal Palace, leaving us with a panoramic view over the city below!
Before leaving Belgium we still needed to get our fix of frites and waffles! Luckily our guide had recommended the best ‘local’ hotspots for both, allowing us to avoid the usual tourist trap restaurants. Without a doubt the best frites we tried were at a small, hole-in-the-wall, just behind the Bourse – blink and you will miss it! With fresh chips cut daily (no frozen potato here!) and over 50 sauces to choose from, it was clear to see why the queue was full of locals! For our fix of waffles we avoided the poor quality but super cheap 1 Euro waffles and made our way to Maison Dandoy where for a little bit more you can enjoy an amazing Belgian waffle – we would highly recommend!
So with our stomachs overly filled, we bid farewell to Belgium and made the short, but long-awaited journey to London!
Until next time,
AP & DT